Manga vs Anime: Detailing the Differences

Even if you’re new to Otaku (a fan of anime and manga) culture, you’re likely familiar with the terms ‘manga’ and ‘anime’. But you see them used interchangeably or even to refer to the same thing. So, you’re probably wondering: what is the difference between manga and anime?

Manga is a Japanese style of comic book or graphic novel. Anime is a Japanese style of animation typically produced as a TV series or movie. They share the same visual style, but are not the same thing.

Yet they are closely related as both are key components of Otaku culture and media. Many Otaku’s first exposure to the fandom is through anime or manga.

While both were once considered a ‘weird’ subculture outside of Japan, that is no longer the case. You can find manga in every major bookstore and see anime on all major streaming services and even in movie theatres.

But because of that close relation, it’s easy to get them mixed up. Let’s take a deeper look into each.

What Is Manga?

Manga (漫画), originally meaning whimsical or aimless (Man, 漫) pictures (Ga, 画), are the Japanese equivalent of Comic Books in the west. However, the differences between the two are many.

The vast majority of Manga are published entirely in black and white (monochrome colors). This is done in order to quickly produce content as many series are released on a weekly basis. Although, a few Manga have dashes of color (The Maid I Hired Recently Is Mysterious) or are re-released in full color editions.

Rather than as individual issues like Western Comics, Manga chapters are published in Manga Magazines such as Shonen Jump or Shojo Beat on a weekly or monthly basis. Once they have enough chapters (around 200 pages worth), they are published in Tankoubon (単行本) format, more commonly known as a Volume.

The editing, publishing, and marketing of a Manga is handled by major publishing houses. However, the Manga itself is written and drawn by an individual known as a Mangaka (漫画家, Manga Artist) or by a small team of them.

Furthermore, because the Japanese language is traditionally read from right-to-left, Manga—even when translated—are read from right-to-left. Early western Manga releases flipped the text to fit the expected left-to-right reading style, but this practice did not last long and has been completely abandoned.

Due to the speed at which it is produced and the sheer volume of Manga series in publication at any given time, Manga is often regarded as ‘disposable entertainment’.

20 to 50 page chapters of each series are published in massive magazines containing around 500 pages. Monthly magazines might be regarded a little better, but weekly magazines can often be found lying abandoned on trains or in trash cans after readers have caught up on their favorite series.

Conversely, Anime is treated quite a bit differently.

What Is Anime?

Anime (アニメ), originally stemming from the Japanese loanword for Animation (アニメーション), is a style of animated film unique to Japan. The western equivalent would be cartoons. However, there are basically no similarities between cartoons and Anime besides that both are animated.

Because the term is so widespread, if you hear someone talk about Anime, you can be 100% they are referring to Japanese Animation. Hence why shows like Spongebob are called ‘Cartoons’ and Pixar movies are called ‘Animated Films’.

Anime are produced by an individual Anime studio (Shaft, Madhouse, Bones) that is part of a larger production committee. While each anime is attributed to a single studio, the production almost always involves multiple Anime studios and various production companies.

This is because Anime, unlike Manga, is more than just a monochrome visual experience. Anime has striking full-color visuals, a soundtrack, sound effects, and professional voice actors/actresses voicing each character.

Due to those factors, Anime are not produced nearly as fast as Manga. While the production time of each Anime varies between studios, new anime are released every 3 months. These are known as ‘Anime Seasons’ and are divided by Winter (January-March), Spring (April-June), Summer (July-September), and Fall (October-December).

On average, Anime have 12 or 24 episodes seasons knowns as ‘cours’. Each episode runs in a 30-minute TV slot. Excluding commercial breaks, each episode lasts about 24 minutes. Depending on its popularity, an Anime might come back for additional seasons (My Hero Academia) or run for hundreds of episodes (One Piece).

Due to the infrequency that Anime are released, they are not treated as poorly as Manga. Fans only have so many to pick from, so they appreciate what they’ve got.

That said, series that only run for 12 episodes and never return for a second season are often not intended to be anything more than an advertisement for the original work.

Ok, you’ve got the basics down, but its important to know more than just the surface-level differences between Manga and Anime.

What Are the Primary Differences Between Manga and Anime?

The key difference between the two mediums is obvious. One comes on paper, the other in film. But the two are both a huge part of Otaku culture and closely connected. Many Anime wouldn’t exist without Manga and vice versa. So, it can be useful to analyze what makes each unique so you can better appreciate both mediums.

Number of People Working on It

As noted above, Manga is created by a few individuals, while producing an Anime requires multiple Anime studios worth of manpower.

Th number of people involved in a project often results in a number of side effects both positive and negative. One of which is:

Cost to Produce

A Manga series passes through quite a few hands before hitting bookshelves, but Anime goes through infinitely more. And all those people need a paycheck. Needless to say, the more people you have to pay, the more something will cost.

Manga are relatively inexpensive to produce and their low pricing reflects that. The Weekly Shonen Jump magazine costs a stupid low ¥290 ($2.20~), while individual volumes cost an average of ¥600 ($4.50~).

Conversely, Anime cost at least $100,000 per episode, often much more. And a Blu-ray set for 2 episodes of Anime costs an average of $60. Meaning, it can cost you nearly $400 to buy one 12-episode series on Blu-ray. Recouping the costs for an Anime production is painful for both producer and consumer.

Storytelling Techniques

Manga and Anime rely on the same story tropes and character archetypes. But the way each delivers its story are totally different.

Manga, being a physical experience, allows for a Mangaka to deliver her story at a slower pace. Assuming her work isn’t canceled early, she has plenty of space to deliver a multi-layered story with plenty of characters and settings. And because they can more easily stop and reflect on the story or artwork, readers can experience the story at their own pace.

Anime do the opposite. For 12 episodes, it only has about 300 minutes to begin and finish its story. So, the story moves at a much faster pace. In order to provide viewers a sense of closure by episode 12, it must wrap up every story beat and character arc much faster than a Manga might.

Furthermore, while Manga can pass through several hands, the creative process is typically left up to the Mangaka. This leads to a more realized story, characters, and setting.

Anime can possess those qualities, but because it passes through so many different people with unique ideas and opinions on how it should go that it can often feel disjointed.

Visual Techniques

Both mediums have totally different visual styles that change how you experience each.

Manga, being inexpensive to produce, can have a lot of their production time spent on details. Backgrounds, characters, and everything in each panel can be worthy of framing and hanging on a wall. If the Mangaka goes the extra mile to do this, Manga can leave readers in awe of their illustrations, which makes the Manga all the more impactful and memorable.

However, only so much can be conveyed through still frames. Any scenes portraying lots of movement (battle scenes) can often be underwhelming as most of the work falls on the imaginative power of the reader.

Anime solves this issue by providing tons of dynamic and colorful movement. Viewers can enjoy the engaging spectacle of a battle rather than having to imagine it. While it may be difficult for someone to get into Manga, Anime is often immediately engaging because of its emphasis on spectacle.

But Anime is often lacking in the detail department. Backgrounds are simple, many scenes feature two heads talking to each other, and the art style is oversimplified so that the multitude of artists working on the Anime don’t have trouble adapting to a unique art style.

Accessibility and Popularity

Because manga is both cheap, quick and simple to read, and treated as ‘disposable’, it’s not seen as a huge investment in terms of time or money. It’s easy to pick up and put back down at your leisure. Therefore, in Japan, where there is still a large reading culture, Manga is more popular than Anime.

Anime requires a huge time investment where you have to tune in at a specific time to catch each episode when it airs on TV. And you have to keep up with every week as Anime rarely get re-runs. Thus, while still immensely popular, Anime isn’t doesn’t have a large of following as Manga.

The opposite is true for the west. Anime is readily available on a variety of streaming services and be accessed at your leisure. Westerners also have a larger TV watching culture than a reading one. That and Manga costs three times as much in the west as it does in Japan…


As noted above, Anime last 12 or 24 episodes per season, but can last far longer if popular enough.

Manga, however, are typically designed to never end. As long as the series is profitable, publishing houses will encourage Mangaka to work on that single series for as long as possible.

The reasons for this are many, but the primary one is that it’s easier and more profitable to keep the same fans than try to make new ones with a new series.

Anime are usually designed to end without hope of ever getting a second season. If they do, great, but they’re true purpose is—


Anime are rarely just Anime. Much like western TV and film, Anime are adaptations of pre-existing works. While plenty of Anime are wholly original works, the majority are produced as a sort-of advertisement for the original work.

Because Anime are so expensive to produce, their production committees don’t treat them as their primary money-maker. Rather, many anime are produced at a loss. A loss made up by promoting the original work and endless piles of merchandise from keychains to figurines.

Anime’s primary purpose is that of selling products that are far more profitable than the Anime itself.

Manga, typically being the original work, then has a true purpose of lasting as long as possible. It can be used as an advertisement, but it’s usually what’s being advertised. So, the longer it lasts, the more fans it gains, and the more money it makes.

But where do Anime come from? What are they meant to advertise?

Do All Anime Come From Manga?

You might’ve looked up your favorite Anime and discovered it was based on a Manga. If you’re new to Otaku culture, you might be wondering if all Anime are based on Manga.

Many Anime are based on Manga, but they can come from any source. Light Novels, Visual Novels, Video Games, and even non-Otaku oriented novels have all been adapted into Anime. Many Anime are also original works not based on any pre-existing source.

You can observe the same phenomenon in western media. Many TV series and films are based on popular novels. This is done for a number of reasons:

  • They can be cheaper to produce when you don’t have to create a franchise from scratch
  • It’s safer to adapt a story proven to work instead a taking a chance on something new
  • You have a pre-existing fanbase from fans of the Manga
  • Adaptations don’t necessarily take as long to produce given some of the work is done

That said, not every Manga receives an Anime adaptation. Only those that prove profitable as a Manga receive Anime adaptations to further advertise the Manga. There are infinitely more Manga without Anime than those with them.

Furthermore, some Manga are actually based on other sources. If a Light Novel or Original Anime is popular enough, it can receive a Manga adaptation.

Anime can be adapted from any source, but Manga are no doubt adapted the most. But which is better?

Which is Better? Manga or Anime?

After detailing the differences between the two, you should be able to tell which one is more suited to your tastes.

Manga is easy to get into and can be very addictive because of how easy it is to read. If you love going at your own pace, highly detailed illustrations, and intricate stories with tons of memorable characters, you’ll enjoy Manga.

Anime is also easy to get into, but requires a significant time investment. I enjoyed it the most in during high-school because I had buckets of free time and would watch 20 different series every season. But now that I’m lacking in free time, I prefer mediums I can pick up and put down quick.

Though, if you love vivid colors, flashy animations, and a tight to-the-point story, you’ll probably enjoy Anime.

Then again, you don’t have to pick one or the other. Nothing’s stopping you from indulging in both.

Of course, when people ask ‘which is better’, they’re typically asking whether or not an Anime adaptation of a Manga is better than the original.

And I’m afraid that depends on the Anime. Many Anime adaptations aren’t totally faithful to their source material, which has caused the ire of many fans. But I, who rarely reads the original Manga, have no idea what the Anime got ‘wrong’ and am able to enjoy the anime just fine. Plus, many Anime adaptations are far better than their source material.

Really, this question isn’t even worth asking. As I hope I’ve proven, Manga and Anime are two completely different forms of entertainment. Comparing the two is pointless as they’re incomparable. Apples and oranges and all that…

Now You Know the Difference Between Anime and Manga

While the two look the same and have the same fans, they are quite different.

Rare is the Otaku who does not indulge in both Manga and Anime, so don’t hesitate to do the same.

There are a million and one series to fall in love with. You need only head to your local bookstore or library to find some Manga. And Anime just a few clicks away on your favorite streaming service.

Happy reading! Happy watching!


Hey, my name's Azuma. I first dove deep into Otaku culture in 2010 and never quite grew out of it. After a million different anime, light novels, manga, and visual novels, I learned a lot about each art form. Knowledge I want to share with you from writing advice to drawing tips. I'm also the Author of two light novels series, Garden of PSI and On Creating the Ultimate Weapon. Happy creating!

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